Are you ready for cable fee increases? The implications of ESPN's $15 billion deal for Monday Night Football
The machinery is in place. Matt Lauer and Al Roker are already in Green Bay, Wisc., ready to join NBC outlets the Weather Channel, Telemundo and E! entertainment in hyping NBC's telecast of NFL football's first game tonight between the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints.
And if you needed any more convincing of cable TV's power, consider today's news of ESPN's deal securing Monday Night Football until the year 2021. Covering 136 Monday night games along with a host of foreign, 3-D and digital rights, the deal boosts ESPN's football programming by 500 hours and costs a total $15 billion -- about a 73 percent hike from the last agreement.
Are you ready for some cable fee increases?
ESPN's deal, detailed here, is extensive and powerful proof of football's growing status as a major prop holding up a fading television industry. As other TV platforms lose audience, football is gaining, allowing owners to play hardball on rights deals, blackout policies and anything else they desire from those who carry their games.
The Los Angeles Times has an interesting column here about the stratospheric rights in fees from broadcasting football games -- now up to a combined $3.1 billion annually for the 16-game season among the four big broadcast networks. The story notes that ESPN and regional sports networks are the most expensive channels on standard cable systems -- costing three times as much as entertainment channels -- leading to an escalation of cable costs that may be spurring customers to cut their cords entirely.
The numbers are on the NFL's side. Of the top 15 shows on TV last season, eight were football-related broadcasts on the major networks; all were the only shows in the Top 20 which drew more male viewers -- valued by advertisers because they don't watch television as much as women.
It's a sad paradox for fans, who now know that for all the extra football action they will receive, such deals also bring pressure for increased fees that eventually trickle down to the consumer.
Bet we don't see Bob Costas doing any in-depth interviews about that part of the football experience.